Master's Projects - Report

The final report on the masters project must show professional competence through organization, quality of analysis, and ability to communicate findings. The student is responsible for technical content and careful proofreading is required. Consult an appropriate writer's style manual, and obtain the agreement of your adviser on the appropriate style to follow (from a style manual or journal in your field). The adviser will approve the masters project after a critical assessment of content, format, style of writing, and technical quality. All revisions must be made before the project is completed, the executive summary signed, and the official document uploaded to DukeSpace.

The Cover Sheet
The cover sheet must give the title, author, MP adviser’s name, date and degree.

The cover sheet is not numbered (click here for sample).

The Executive Summary
All masters projects contain an executive summary. The executive summary is an overall summary of the master’s project, clearly stating the problem (that instigated/inspired/necessitated the MP), and a description of all parts of the master’s project significance, objectives, methods, findings/results, broader ramifications of the work, and conclusions. The summary should stand alone (i.e., be intelligible to those who may not have the opportunity to read the entire work). It may not exceed 2 typewritten pages. The recommended length is 650-900 words (1000 words maximum). It may be typed 1.5 or single-spaced. Normally, the summary follows the cover sheet and precedes the table of contents in the bound report. It is titled "EXECUTIVE SUMMARY" and may be numbered with a small Roman numeral or left unnumbered. Formatting can include bullets if desired. During final upload to the library site this Executive Summary will be pasted in as the "abstract."

The Separate Executive Summary (submitted electronically)
Executive Summaries of all student research are bound into a notebook available to persons who are interested in a quick reference to work being done in the School. For this purpose, students must submit a separate executive summary typed in the format shown here. The content of the summary is the same as in the final report, but the format differs. The title of the project, the author's name, and the date of submission are essential parts of the heading. It may be typed 1.5 or single spaced and must be printed out, double-sided. There must be a place for the adviser to sign and date the executive summary as approval of completion of the project. The signed, separate executive summary must be submitted via email to by the deadline.

Executive Summary 
We highly encourage (though to not require) students doing individual MPs to create a 2-4 page .pdf document from text of their executive summary plus graphics/results of their analysis (or a “brief”). If designed well, this can be an essential device for job interviews and other arenas where you’d like to communicate the main points of your MP, but realize the client won’t have time to read through your entire document.

General Typing Instructions
Use sharp, black type. If/when you print your document out, use white, 8½" by 11" paper of good quality. Allow margins of approximately one inch on both sides, top, and bottom. All type, including titles of sections and page numbers, should fall within these margins. All material in the body of the report should be 1.5 spaced or double spaced. Footnotes and references, charts, diagrams, etc., may follow any generally accepted format for your field and be single spaced.

General Content
Generally, project reports or research papers contain the following five sections:

Students are referred to the Council of Biology Editors Style Manual, available in the library, or the style manual recommended by your adviser, for a discussion of content of these main sections. Project reports may, however, be divided into other sections and subsections as needed.

Students interested in using internships as the basis for their MPs should work closely with their advisers to ensure that reports expected of them under their internships are compatible with the requirements of the masters project.  Sometimes the product required by the internship supervisor is different from that required by the Nicholas School, resulting in the student having to prepare two versions of the report. Communicate closely with both the internship supervisor and your MP adviser to determine if this will be the case. PLEASE NOTE: because final MPs will be publicly available via search engines to persons outside of the Nicholas School and Duke, students must anticipate and address in advance any potential difficulties regarding proprietary or confidential information with both their internship adviser and their MP adviser. For information about Non-Disclosure Agreements click here.

All completed master’s projects are required to be uploaded to Duke Library’s DukeSpace website and are searchable across the Internet. If the MP contains sensitive information (e.g., from the client’s point of view, in terms of future publication elsewhere, or sensitivity for commercial ventures) an embargo of up to two years may be requested. Requests should include specific justification for the embargo for the specific period of time and should be sent to Cindy Peters, the assistant dean for student services.

When the final report has been approved by the MP adviser, you can upload the "official copy"  to DukeSpace following specific instructions. The separate executive summary with adviser’s signature must be submitted at the same time. The separate executive summary must be submitted to the Student Services office by the deadline. When you add your executive summary to your upload, if you would like to leave a post-Duke contact email address for people accessing your MP, we encourage you to add a line at the end of the executive summary: For more information contact [not your Duke email address]. This addition is not a requirement but will facilitate interested people contacting you for further information.

Deadlines for submission are as follows:

  • For May graduation: Friday of Reading Week for the spring semester
  • For September graduation: last Friday in August
  • For December graduation: Friday of Reading Week for the fall semester